Bradford - Park Road/Western Cinema

Park Road / Western Talkie Theatre
Park Road,

Park Road Cinema 1922
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On the north side of Park Road (near the junction of the more recent Ternhill Grove and Heddon Grove) and about 100 yards from its junction with the very busy Manchester Road. Surrounded by a densely populated area of Victorian terraced housing and woollen mills and warehouses.


The Building
Park Road cinema 1922 Purpose built of brick with stone dressing and occupying a corner position with its prominent entrance at the corner. Built as a single deck hall with pitched roof. The entrance door surmounted by a half-round window and a more distinctive circular window at first floor level.

The architect was Ernest H. Dawson of Windhill with a practice in Picture House Chambers in Thornton Road which was above the Picture House (later Tatler) cinema. Dawson also worked from Manchester. He was later to design the prestige Glenroyal 'super' cinema in Briggate, Shipley in 1932.


The small entrance and paybox led directly to the auditorium whose raked floor accommodated circa 900 people. The projection and rewind rooms at the rear at first floor level. The screen was mounted on the back wall and there was one exit door in each side wall near the screen. Beneath the screen end was the boiler room. The interior decoration was a very tasteful Wedgwood blue with white motif.

The company behind the Park Road project was Park Road Cinema Co Ltd where its architect, Ernest Dawson, was managing director and Arthur Crossland as resident manager.


The Opening
Ernest Dawson proudly advertised . . .

Grand Opening on Saturday 22nd July 1922 at 2.30pm
by the Right Honourable The Lord Mayor
Councillor Thomas Blythe, JP.
The whole of the takings to be given to the Cinderella Fund.
Evening performance at 6.15 and 8.30pm.
Full picture programme afternoon and evening.
Prices 4d, 6d and 9d including tax.
Children half price.
But it seems the Right Honourable gentleman did not actually perform the ceremony for the Bradford Daily Argus reported on Monday 24th July 1922 . . .
"The ceremonial opening opening of the new Park Road Cinema was performed on Saturday (22nd July 1922) by the Deputy Lord Mayor (Mr E. Siddle).
'The value of the cinema today, said Mr Siddle, was that it was as eyes to the blind - it had brought many men and women and children to a right understanding of what had previously been strange to them. There was nothing bad in the cinema itself; the good or evil was often in the attitude of mind which was brought to bear on the picture exhibited'.
After the Deputy Lord Mayor had been thanked by Mr E. Dawson (managing director) for performing the ceremony, Mr E. Wetherill expressed the gratitude of the Cinderella Club to the proprietor for handing over the whole of the proceeds for the first exhibition in the hall. The Cinderella Club will benefit to the extent of £11."

The same programme continued from Monday 24th July 1922 with . . .

6.15 and 8.30pm. Matinées Mon, Wed, Sat.
"A Gamble in Lives" - 1920 UK B/w Silent
Starring Malvina Longfellow, Norman McKinnel and Alec Fraser.
A drama from the British & Colonial Kinematograph Co.
Newsreel, Chaplin comedy and interest films shown in addition.
The press reported . . .
"The new Park Road cinema opened its career this week with 'A Gamble in Lives' and the film entertained a large crowd who patronised the hall last night (24th July 1922)."


Talkies and Name Change
The Park Road stopped advertising in September 1931 and it is not clear whether it closed for a while.

H. Meynell had taken control for a period - the Meynell family were also involved with the Empress Picture House in Legrams Lane, Listerhills.

For the remaining years J.R. Whiteley was listed as proprietor along with E.G. Douglas as its resident manager. After an extensive revamp the Western Electric sound system was installed (date unclear) and seating reduced to 750. The name was changed to Western Talkie Theatre and resumed advertising on Monday 13th June 1932 with . . .

"Merely Mary Ann" - 1931 USA B/w 74mins.
Starring Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell and Beryl Mercer.
Continuous from 6.45pm
Prices 5d to 9d.
After the war the seating arranged in three blocks with two aisles was reduced again to 656 though Council licensing records show 660.


Urban Myth
There is a myth that the cinema, known locally simply as the Western, was so named because it showed mainly western type films - this is quite incorrect.

Several other halls in the Yorkshire region after fitting the 'superior' Western Electric sound system were renamed Western Talkie Theatre, for example cinemas in Branch Road, Armley and another in Florence Street, Harehills in Leeds. (source: KYB 1950)


The 1950's
Still under the ownership of J.R. Whiteley and E.G Douglas as manager/licensee since 1945, it struggled on with prices of 6d to 10d. CinemaScope was installed but even then it could not compete with the better widescreen installations at the Towers Hall and Carlton further up Manchester Road.


Special Event
The Western advertised in the Telegraph & Argus on Tuesday 9th December 1958 a special showing . . .

At 6.30pm only Western presents
A Selznick International Picture
Produced by David N. Selznick
Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Ltd
for two days only
"Gone With The Wind" - 1939 USA Technicolor 220mins.
Starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Haviland.
A Masterpiece in Technicolor.


In April 1960, E.G Douglas, who had leased the cinema since 1945 and was also its manager, announced the Western was the victim of the local massive housing clearance scheme to make way for new development and that from the 14th May 1960 it would be " closed until further notice or until Mr Wardley (City Engineer) builds the new flats". At weekends Douglas proposed to let the cinema to two Indian Film Societies for showing Asian produced films to its fast growing community. He later changed back to showing English language films and tried 3x2-day changes each week with little success. The cinema did, in fact, struggle through until January 1961.

The Western Talkie Theatre closed its doors on Saturday 14th January 1961 with . . .

"The Sheepman" - 1958 USA Metrocolor CinemaScope 91mins.
Starring Glen Ford, Shirley MacLaine and Leslie Nielson
"Tarzan the Ape Man" - 1959 USA Technicolor 82mins.
Starring Denny Miller, Joanna Barnes and Cesare Danova.
The premises were later demolished as part of the major redevelopment of the area coupled with the widening of Manchester Road.

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